A few words on the plan. My intention was to eat only raw (not cooked over 115°F) food that contained no animal products or animal byproducts for thirty days (not including Christmas dinner and one other pre-arranged dinner party - I didn't want to be a bad guest and I can't turn down my Mom's cooking). Why would I try something like this? Well, a few reasons. First, it's trendy and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Second, it's really freaking healthy - food loses tons of nutrients when we cook it. And, so, if we're taking out the nutrients, then we basically are eating empty calories and I might as well eat cream soda flavored Jelly Bellys 24/7, right? (Okay, maybe it's not all that extreme). Anyway, here's an example. In a 2005 study, the folks at the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that when you microwave, for instance, broccoli, it loses 97 percent of flavonoids, 74 percent of sinapics, and 87 percent of caffeoyl-quinic derivatives (I know, what the hell are these, right? Well, they're antioxidants. And they're kind of important). And that's just broccoli. And a third reason? Why the heck not? So, on December 1st, I set out to give it a try. How hard could it be, right?
Now, I wasn’t a perfect little raw vegan by any stretch of the imagination. I definitely cheated a few times. I had my lovely predetermined “free” dinner and ate my face off. It was so good . . . for about twenty minutes. And then, I felt absolutely disgusting. For the next twelve hours. Was it worth it, I wondered? I wasn’t quite sure. Much like the close talker with the halitosis at the holiday party, I felt like my body was trying really hard to get rid of my dinner as quickly as possible. The same thing happened every time I cheated. I had some of a friend’s nachos one evening in a moment of weakness and not only did I taste the (previously undetectable to my palate) chemicals in the cheese, but the texture of the food in general felt gummy. The same thing happened when I stealthily and guiltily munched the sliver of toast that came with my salad – it felt like it stuck to the roof of my mouth. What was IN this stuff anyway? My last and most extravagant cheat: Mom’s fabulous Christmas dinner. There was NO way that I would pass up her turkey, deviled eggs, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and broccoli and cauliflower salad. I went to town. And then had some cheesecake to boot. It was Christmas, after all. Now, THAT was worth the icky feeling I had for the next twelve hours. But that's a once a year kind of meal. And worth the 364 day wait for it. But, by Christmas, I had learned an important lesson. For good. I realized that had been ignorantly eating, for the most part, processed CRAP for my entire life! And didn’t have any idea what was in ANY of it. Really, Michelle? I could tell you the calorie count of pretty much any food in the grocery store, but I couldn’t tell you if there was dextrose in the wheat thins or nitrates in the lunch meat. Wow. Another lesson I learned is that milk products are, basically, the devil. Now, I won’t go off on how NOBODY should be ingesting milk products EVER, but I will tell you that every time I did, I felt disgusting. Even the handful of butterscotch chips that I had on Christmas evening felt slimy. Wow. I officially didn’t like it. Lesson number two for the Veganista: no more milk. Like, at all. Like, ever. And not because I won't allow myself to have it. It's just that after a month without it, I really don't want it anymore.
So, I know this has been a long blog, but it WAS an entire month after all. And I kind of had a lot to say. And I still have more to say, but I won't bore you all with the novel-length version. I don’t have that kind of time. Or audience, for that matter. I will just say, though, that I truly believe that extremes can teach us a lot. And I definitely learned a lot. I learned that fresh, real food is exponentially better for me. Not that I didn’t know that before, but I now know that for myself. And, never underestimate the power of a lesson learned firsthand. Second, I know that there are some foods that I used to eat that my body really doesn’t like. I was forcing them down without really listening to the effects of their digestion (much like most of America). Third, chemicals taste like crap. I had a few jelly beans a few days ago and it was literally an assault to my taste buds. But I wanted to keep eating them nonetheless. Even though I didn’t like them. The chemical that the jelly bean company put in the mix that makes my mouth want more was working at full speed ahead. I stopped, thought, “This is not good at all”, and went for a handful of raw cashews. Much better.
Will I continue to be a raw vegan? Nope. I don’t roll like that. Will my diet in general be changed immensely by this experience? Absolutely. Perhaps I was crazy for radically changing my diet for a month. But, now, having been at both ends of the spectrum of eating, experiencing firsthand the ridiculously healthy and the overly unhealthy, I can now find a happy medium that works for me. I think that’s what it’s all about.